Anyone who knows me or has spent more than five minutes reading this blog will know of my love for Southwold. And it’s not just a love of mine, it’s intergenerational across my entire family. It’s the place in which my grandma met my step-grandad, and the two families officially combined.
Subsequently, it’s been used as a meeting place, a family holiday destination, and a place to celebrate life, death, and everything in between. To put it bluntly, it’s become a part of our family’s blood (as has the Adnams). If anyone were to ask “is Southwold worth visiting?”, the only answer is yes.
Fast-forward to 2021 and I found myself reminiscing tales of old to Georgia. Little did I know, she was secretly booking a trip to Southwold in order to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
I was ecstatic to find out that I was going to be able to return after over five years, and show Georgia what the fuss was all about. If you’re wondering what to do in Southwold, here’s a handy guide.
How to get to here
One of the benefits of Southwold is its seclusion from the rest of the world. It’s not all that easy to reach if you don’t have a car. From Derbyshire, it took us three and a half hours to reach Southwold, as it’s mainly A-roads and B-roads from the Midlands. If you don’t have access to a car, your best bet from the North/Midlands would be a train to Norwich, and then the 146 bus directly to Southwold. From the South of England, it’s a train to Ipswich and then Beccles, followed by the 524 bus directly to Southwold.
Where to Stay in Southwold
Our stay in Southwold was perfect from start to finish, with thanks to the hospitality, staff and splendour of The Swan. We chose a garden room, which was perfect for the two of us, plus the dog. It’s worth noting that dogs aren’t allowed in any of the hotel’s main areas or bedrooms. But the garden rooms are separate from the main building at the rear of the hotel and are all dog-friendly.
With that said, the staff at The Swan couldn’t have been more accommodating. Ozzy (the dog) was treated with as much respect and received a very warm welcome. He’s quite the heartbreaker at the best of times, but the staff at The Swan treated him like royalty. He was offered a bed on his arrival, access to doggy treats, and the hotel allowed him to be left in the room whilst we headed down for breakfast. All in all, the staff were flawless.
I’ve been a visitor to The Swan many times over the years, but hadn’t seen the hotel’s full renovation which took place in 2018. And boy, I was in for a treat. The place looks absolutely stunning.
Breakfast was included in the room price, and exceeded all expectations. The menu was full of choice, and there was even the option to build your own breakfast plate.
Other options include The Crown a few doors down – though we were sorely disappointed by our dinner there. The Sail Loft is highly regarded, and there are a plethora of cottages available to rent. Or, do as we always did, and reserve a plot at the campsite for a truly authentic experience. Just be warned – it books up fast, so you’ll have to be quick!
What to Do in Southwold
If you’re looking for an action-packed weekend, Southwold might not be for you. If you’re looking for a quiet amble along the beach, good food and independent shops, then Southwold will be right up your street.
What you do in Southwold depends entirely on the weather – as is the case in most places. Unless you’re visiting between May and September, you’ll need to fill your days with something other than days on the beach. Southwold’s most famous export is Adnams. Originally the creators of beer, Adnams have branched out into creating gins, vodkas and everything in between. The Adnams Brewery and Distillery are both situated close to Southwold’s Lighthouse, and tours operate most days. We opted for the brewery tour as it had been some time since I last did it, and I wanted Georgia to experience the original tour. We booked online for £25 per ticket, which included a full tour of the brewery, and tasting session to finish.
Aside from drinking Adnams, other things to do in Southwold largely include walking. Take a walk along Southwold Beach towards the harbour, and cross the bridge to visit Walberswick. This small coastal village offers some independent shopping options and eateries, as well as a couple of pubs to drink even more Adnams. In the spring and summer months, the ferry is available to cross the harbour back to Southwold for a small fee and is a handy option if your feet or tired, or you’ve had one too many Broadside’s.
Southwold Pier offers entertainment for the whole family. Reaching 623 feet into the North Sea, it is home to two arcades, a cafe, restaurant and two shops. It’s also a great place to get a panoramic view of the town and when it’s not too windy, is a great place to enjoy an ice cream or some fish and chips. This is a great option if you’re visiting Southwold as a family.
If it’s adrenaline you are looking for in the beautiful sleepy seaside town of Southwold, head to the harbour to take a ride on the Coastal Voyager. The high speed trip out to sea from Southwold gives you an opportunity to experience the 400hp boat as it is put through its paces as you take a tour of Solebay.
Where to Eat in Southwold
For such a small place, the variety of restaurants and cafes is quite astounding. Whether you’re staying at the Swan or you aren’t, a breakfast, lunch or dinner here is an absolute must. The seasonal menu offers a taste of familiar dishes, and some less so. The ingredients are mostly sourced locally and the flavours on offer are out-of-this-world. As previously mentioned, we ate breakfast here both mornings and the selection was sublime. We also ate dinner at the Swan one evening, and were treated to some of the freshest fish I’ve ever eaten. It’s worth noting that the cocktails at The Swan are very good, too.
A trip to Southwold Harbour to taste some fresh fish is an absolute must. We enjoyed some oysters from the Sole Bay Fish Company, but the fish and chips here are very good too. Hop on the ferry to Walberswick and grab a bite to eat from The Bell Inn, or take a walk through the town to The Tea Shed for a slice of their cake – the service is phenomenal.
The Two Magpies Bakery has become something of an institution since it opened its doors in 2012. We regrettably didn’t try anything from here, but we walked past the window and the croissants looked flaky as f***. The Lord Nelson used to be the family go-to for some fish & chips with a side of Adnams, but unfortunately since the pandemic they’ve stopped serving food. This does not, however mean that you can avoid the place altogether, because you haven’t been to Southwold until you’ve been to the ‘Nellie.
When all is said and done, Southwold will forever be one of my favourite places in the world. After all, it did feature in my favourite places to visit in the UK.
I did begin to wonder if I was seeing the town through rose-tinted spectacles, but with every visit, the love intensifies. There isn’t a person I’ve ever spoken to about Southwold who hasn’t enjoyed their visit. Whatever it is you’re after when you arrive in Southwold, you’ll leave with the feeling of wanting to return, and that’s a promise.